FIRST-PERSON: A picture of heaven
BARRE, Vt. (BP)--For the past 16 years I have served the Lord as a pastor and church planter in Vermont. Vermont is the least churched state in America, so there is much work to be done. Vermont also has the second highest concentration of white people, with 95.2 percent of our population being white. Only Maine has a higher percentage of white people than Vermont.
But as our minority population in Vermont has grown ever so slightly in recent years, my own heart has been burdened to reach out to our non-Anglo neighbors in the name of Christ.
How does a middle aged white pastor attract minorities to his mostly Anglo congregation? Not knowing what to do, mostly I've just prayed and asked God to help us connect with minority groups. And when God has sent someone to our church who was not white, I made a point to ensure they felt welcome. I have tried to work this theme into sermons when it was appropriate. I have tried to encourage the handful of minorities that we do have in our church to bring their friends. Not exactly the most ambitious plan, but it was the best I could do given the racial make-up of our state.
Over the past five years we have had a small presence of minorities in our congregation and God has been answering our prayers as that portion of our congregation has slowly been growing. But I guess I did not realize just how much God had answered my prayers until one recent Sunday. Leaving an elders meeting, I walked past one of our children's Sunday School classes and realized that the Anglo children were only one-third of the attendees in that particular class. The other children were African American and Asian American. I stopped in my tracks and just stood looking through the window into the class thanking God for showing me a picture of what the faces of heaven would be like.
Thinking that class might be an anomaly, I walked across the lobby to look into another class. My smile got bigger as I realized that class was evenly split between Anglo children and African American children. We only have three children's Sunday School classes at our church, so I decided to go look in the third class and see what it looked like. I was pleased to notice that it was evenly split between Anglo children and Asian American children. Admittedly, these three classes are all small, so the total number of children in them was limited. But the racial mixture represented must be something like the faces we will see in heaven and it was deeply moving to me as a pastor.
I am reminded of what the Apostle John wrote in Revelation 7:9-10, "After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God."
My prayer of gratitude is, "Thank you Lord for showing me the faces of heaven! Help us be faithful in serving You as one people."
Terry Dorsett is director of the Green Mountain Baptist Association. For information, visit VermontBaptist.org.